June 3, 2015

Why The Privatization Of America’s Police Is Such A Dangerous Trend. Though a potent effort to silence dissent is underway in the US, directly doing so would be a flagrant breach of constitutional rights. And so the ostensible explanations for tactically-geared police at peaceful protests and insidious surveillance programs fall under nebulous terms like protecting public safety, keeping the peace or national security. But when Kinder Morgan wanted to push through construction of a controversial gas pipeline, it felt no need for such pretenses—and its justification for hiring off-duty police officers highlights disturbing implications of a dubious national trend: the privatization of American police. Center for Research on Globalization

VA: Road to Ruin: A Cruise Down the Mythical Public-Private Partnership. Over the weekend, The Washington Post brought us another true tale of what a scam “public-private partnerships” can turn out to be, and how it’s usually the “public” half of these enterprises that takes it in the neck.….Handing what we used to call The Commons over to private enterprises — especially private enterprises operating in the ethical wasteland of modern American corporations — doesn’t work. It is an invitation for the wolverines who run such enterprises to steal as much of the public treasury as they can and then stick us with the bill when they inevitably fail, because these corporations are not about building things. They’re about abetting the transfer of money upwards, to a stockholder class. They are vehicles for the financial services industry.   Esquire

NY: Contract With Rikers Health Provider to Be Terminated. A private health care company that has been criticized for doing such a poor job at the Rikers Island jail complex that its medical performance contributed to several inmate deaths is expected to lose its contract with New York City, according to two high-ranking city officials. Corizon, a for-profit company based in Brentwood, Tenn., with a three-year, $126 million contract to run the jails, has been accused by state investigators of repeatedly neglecting and improperly treating inmates, playing a role in at least a dozen deaths at Rikers. In one case that the State Commission of Correction found to “shock the conscience,” an inmate was left dying untreated for six days while uniformed officers, doctors, mental health clinicians and nurses made 57 visits to his cell without assisting him. New York Times

NC: Commentary: The ongoing push to privatize public education in the state budget….The state budget increases funding to the completely unaccountable school voucher scheme that diverts $7 million from public schools to private and religious academies with no requirements at all on how they spend the money or what they teach.   NC Policy Watch

TN: Hamilton County looking into privatizing all local jails. Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger says the county is going to seek a consultant to look into privatization of the county’s jails. . . . The county’s contract with Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the Silverdale facility, runs out in April next year. And Coppinger said he’s been talking to CCA about taking over all of the county’s jails. “We are looking at total privatization of our jails and our Silverdale workhouse,” Coppinger told commissioners. Chattanooga Times Free Press

TX: Texas legislature leaves without stopping toll roads. The 84th session of the Texas legislature just concluded yesterday, but the fallout will be felt by taxpayers for decades to come. Over 75 bills were filed to replace or curtail tolling or to make it more transparent and accountable. When factoring in property rights and efforts to restrict eminent domain abuse, the total came to 96. So with a pipeline full of bills should have sent a strong message to leadership that the taxpayers sent elected officials to Austin to significantly curb if not stop toll roads. But the momentum quickly came to a halt when only a handful of anti-toll bills got a hearing, and very few key bills passed. Of those that did, most were watered down. Examiner.com

MN: Editorial: Why Minnesota needs an Office of the State Auditor. Minnesotans likely don’t know much about the work of the Office of the State Auditor. That’s because they haven’t needed to. For decades, the office has competently and effectively guarded taxpayer interests in the large cities, counties and public pension funds it audits, allowing citizens the luxury of trust in those entities’ fiscal integrity and fidelity to the law. . . .The House prevailed in a wee-hours conference committee on May 17 in a provision that was described as allowing all 87 counties to obtain audits from private auditing firms rather than the state auditor, allowing counties a lower-cost option. . . . Private auditors may be qualified to review county bookkeeping, but few such firms can provide the compliance review that the state auditor performs to assure that county practices comply with state law. That oversight, plus the expertise of a staff that has received national awards, would be lost if the privatization provision stands. So would be the independence that’s designed into an office that’s accountable to Minnesota voters rather than to those who hire them. Minneapolis Star Tribune

MI: Maggots Discovered At Michigan Prison During Lunch At Correctional Facility. The beleaguered state contractor for prison and school foods program, Aramark Correctional Services, is coming under scrutiny again in Michigan. Corrections official Chris Gautz confirmed that maggots were spotted in potatoes that were being cut up in the kitchen as lunch service was in full swing at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson. . . .The state of Michigan, under the guidance of Governor Rick Snyder, privatized the food service in Michigan prisons two years ago, and since that time a series of scandals, has left Aramark’s performance scrutinized due to allegations of employee misconduct and food contamination. . . . .Democrats and a liberal advocacy group have called on Snyder, a Republican, to cancel the Aramark deal, saying problems were inevitable because of high turnover and lower pay for private workers who replaced roughly 370 state employees who lost their jobs in the outsourcing.The governor has defended the decision to stick with the food vendor, saying the state was on pace to save $14 million a year through privatization. He also absolved Aramark of responsibility for suspected food poisoning and maggot problems. CBS Local

WI: Scott Walker And ALEC Allow High School Dropouts To Teach High School. According to an ALEC template, Wisconsin Republicans have proposed an ALEC rule change that allows high school dropouts to “be licensed to teach” in public high schools. It is something that critics, and likely every conscious American, have labeled as “breathtaking in its stupidity.” The ALEC measure was slipped into a 1:30 a.m. Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee along with other underfunded K-12 budget items during a late-night session by Republican state Representative Mary Czaja. Koch Governor Scott Walker has tried to ‘sneak’ the ALEC legislation into the state budget for the past three years, and it appears that this year will be the year when high school dropouts will replace University-trained educators in teaching Wisconsin public high school students. PoliticusUSA

LA: Louisiana health department seeks restoration of public health funding. . . Senators received an updated shortfall calculation for the LSU hospital privatization deals, and were told they need to come up with another $67 million in state financing for hospital managers or risk cutbacks to the hospitals that provide most of the charity care to Louisiana’s uninsured. . . . Hospital operators said that without the extra funding, they’d have to shrink specialty care and other programs. Gregory Feirn, CEO of LCMC Health, which runs the state-owned hospital in New Orleans, said his board would have “to rethink the deal” and decide whether to stay in the partnership with the state. The New Orleans Advocate

IN: Editorial: A continuing toll. . . Then the centerpiece of the “Crossroads of the Midwest” began to look a little frayed. There were complaints about dirty restrooms, and the easternmost rest stop at Fremont closed – only portable toilets were available. Some of the social media comments from travelers were virtually untweetable. Lake and LaPorte counties tried to put together an offer for the road, but quick as a speeding semi, another consortium rolled in with an offer that was reportedly much higher – $5.72 billion, almost all of which will go toward paying off the debts of the former owner. . .. There’s probably some economically sound reason an 75-year lease that apparently lost its owners double-rig trailers of money is worth almost $2 billion more to a buyer now, as a 66-year lease. Oh, and if you’re thinking, somebody must be getting some money out of this deal, you’re right. Under the bankruptcy agreement, the five top ITR executives will divide $2.45 million in bonuses for getting such a high resale price . . .So, overall, has the deal stood the test of time? Drivers who use a lot of the new roadway it funded around the state might say yes. Others might say no. Fort Wayne Journal Gazette